Bird photographs from this year. (27 photos). I wanted to do a 2020 retrospective about something besides all the things that nobody ever wants to think about ever again, ever. And I think you know what I’m talking about.
On January 1st each year I reset my Year List and start counting bird sightings all over again. I went out that day and made a life-bird with this Couch’s Kingbird, seen at Corps Woods in Galveston. The photo here is from March, but I logged this bird repeatedly for over 3 months at this location. All photos Nikon Coolpix P900, in the Houston/Galveston area, Texas, US. Order is generally but not strictly chronological.
Mother, where were you?
On that fateful day when we
eyed the sonograms of past performance
and like card counters tried
to outthink the music
and our feet got carried away.
You remember that day?
Well, it's gone now, away
a set-loose shout in the canyons
of this endless ambition, but
comes back after some delay
the eerie echo, "away."
A few bird photos from here in Houston and down in Galveston, where the mosquitoes, as Shakespeare famously put it, “come not single spies, but in battalions.” I have rarely seen the watery lowlands of Galveston so swarmed with them. Must be the recent rains. This is a Great Blue Heron, unmistakable large wader seen commonly everywhere in this part of the country.
I’ve misidentified this one as Solitary Sandpiper before, but it’s a Spotted Sandpiper in non-breeding form.
Cormorants down on White Oak Bayou. It looks like the cops have ordered them to raise their wings and don’t move. Well, they are black, and they weren’t doing anything but existing which is what passes for probable cause these days. A couple of Snowy Egrets in there too, both abiding by the law as far as anyone can tell. I could take this racial angle here and run with it, but I think I’ll just spare you and let it drop. I trust you get it. Black Lives Matter.
Low angle of morning sunshine at the bayou. There’s a busy paved trail for walkers, runners, and bikers not shown in the foreground. I literally had to wait for a gap in traffic to get this exposure.
Brother Rabbit is not like these other birds, indeed, what is he even doing here? Unlike country rabbits, this city boy could not have cared less about the people passing by a few yards away.
Not much bird action down in Galveston, which was the main reason I drove down, but I did get some banking done and had breakfast at Mi Abuelita’s so I can’t complain. A Black-bellied Whistling Duck and a White Ibis are #BFF at Lafitte’s Cove.
Some Mottled Ducks, same locale.
Caught this Reddish Egret at East Beach, fishing a big puddle remaining from our recent brush with the downgraded TS Beta. At the ship channel I noticed a large bird diving for fish and registered pelican but then I saw it had a forked tail. (Warning: this vehicle brakes suddenly for bird sightings.) It was a Magnificent Frigatebird that I was able to observe a few minutes at a range too distant for a photo attempt. At Corps Woods I found an unusually gregarious Brown Thrasher that repeatedly perched out in the open just long enough to almost get a photo, but no longer.
I walk in these woods
nestled deep within a
tangle of highways
The hum of traffic
beyond the treeline elaborates
what a calm clouded day
could have settled completely
without raising its voice
Fire and storm, unrest
flood and calamity, all at some
distance now, a stunning calm
as I rest on a bench
Cooper's Hawk swoops
low through the canopy
and finds a perch nearby
A female Common Yellowthroat
works a boggy shallow near the parking lot
as young mothers stroll
with infants in carriages
Snakes uncoil in the
tan water by the boardwalk
in the heart of this sprawling city
and in the pit of my stomach
Restaurants and business offices
and butterflies, the damp
forest floor, tree shade, the air
I surrender myself to the sum of it
to the expert nursing staff
here in intensive care
The Houston Arboretum at Memorial Park, Houston, Texas.
Here’s some photos from a brief visit to the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, and a few around the Hive, all taken in the last week of July, 2020. My latest obsession is the High Pass filter which, when abused, gives that smokey, dreamy look. Both bird photos taken at home. At the nature center I saw no birds at all, as in none.
it's nice when things are smooth to touch
our fingers like this very much
and good when walkways claw and grip
our feet don't like it when we slip
especially when we're way up high
as we could fall and maybe die
before we've had a chance to mend
our evil ways: we meet our end
Behold the wheel as motion incarnate. Inventor of the metaphor. Roundation is its pride, spokes the whispering of its ministers, its axle the secret grief. Turning until the grease dries up, then burning.
A mechanism, its gears a-turning. In thinking, wheels turning, turning. Spheres of influence, around, around. Circles have no need of ground. Sanskrit chakra has a sound like wheels knocking cobbled lanes. Strike and clap again, again. The arc, a portion of the round, its back is bent. It makes no sound.
The curve that sneaks in fluidly all paths and motions, blunts the angle, rounds the bend, transcribes the swing. It does its thing. It snugs the rim of hat and crown. Same as same when upside down! Once gone, just wait, it comes around.
Self, the center of conception, the spokes relate in rays the scenes. The never was but could have beens. What comes around, will go around, in startless parts, no stops or starts. It turns upon its secret grief. The axle happy in its grease. How does it make its way, by feel?
Birding can be difficult to understand for the uninitiated. I have many times spoken excitedly with coworkers about a bird I’d seen that morning and sensed that they were feigning interest while quietly wishing I’d just hurry up and finish my story. (I do the same thing when people talk excitedly about their favorite team winning a game.) If you haven’t made the connection yourself, it is hard to see what the fuss is about.
There are two main types of birding: planned and unplanned. Unplanned is the best—it’s like getting an unexpected bonus. A third kind is a blend of the two, just noticing local bird-life as you go about your day, the no-big-deal birds because you see them all the time. This is still birding, but not the kind you write home about. So between the three, we are always either birding, or ready to be birding on short notice. Sometimes we eat and get some sleep.
I was taking a small bag of garbage out to the receptacle on the street the other morning and noticed a bird, startled by my presence, flush from the ground in the empty lot across the street. The lot there is cleared for new construction and I see doves, pigeons, and sparrows there all the time, but this bird was bigger so I stopped and focused. It was a hawk of some kind, with prey in its grip, flying straight into our property.
I went back in the gate and looked around, but could not spot it. Then a few minutes later I heard the Blue Jays start squawking and crying. This is reliable hawk-alert behavior for jays. They hate raptors and are fearless in their efforts to expel them from their territory. They will scream and dive-bomb a hawk until it gets fed up and leaves. This I have seen many times now. So I followed the noise and located the bird, halfway up an oak, perched on a thick branch and dining on its prey. I could see the striped tail and for sure had a Cooper’s Hawk up there.
This tree happens to be located next to the apartment building so I grabbed my camera and headed to the rooftop with the intention of sneaking up and getting a photo. There’s plenty of foliage between myself and the oak up there, but I did find a gap that afforded a nice view, without the hawk noticing me. The above photo is the result.
I watched for a while as the jays kept at it, the hawk ignoring them and picking away it is victim. I could not see what unlucky bird it was, but statistically most likely a White-winged Dove, the most plentiful hawk prey around here.
So there you have it: I was minding my own business, doing a mundane chore, and all of a sudden I’m birding. I know what you’re thinking and you are right: we birders are all nuts. What we do borders on the sort of compulsive behavior that some would think needs treatment. Maybe so, but as maladies go this one is pretty enjoyable.